Powerful photographs show life in lockdown through ESOL students’ eyes

Ruth Peterson | September 8, 2020

Vivid pictures of lockdown life can be viewed all over Bradford in photographs taken by young people including students at Bradford College.

English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students, aged between 16 and 18, were among those who collaborated with photographer Carolyn Mendelsohn in the “Though Our Lens” Instagram project.

Abdi Warsame, whose pictures can be seen on billboard across the district, said: “That was an amazing project, many thanks to my teacher.”

Self portrait of Abdi Warsame in mask
Abdi Warsame

Moments make up Our Street

Photographs from Through Our Lens is the first chapter in “Our Street Gallery”, a 12-month district-wide cultural project transforming the city’s streets into a canvas of images capturing moments and feelings from the people of the Bradford.

Since 16 July, more than 50 photographs taken by 13 to 18-year olds for the Through Our Lens project have illustrated billboards, sides of houses, pavements, lamp posts, windows and school railings across the district. 

Photo by ESOL student Abdi Warsame of man looking out of window
Another unique moment captured by Abdi

ESOL lecturer Marie Pacchiarini said: “It was a very exciting collaboration. We were able to develop language skills as well as further an understanding of photography and it was really interesting to see the learners learn and develop their skills.”

A hoarding with a photo of a teddy bear taken as art of the Through Our Lens project
Photo by Emily Ryalls.

Our amazing students

Also capturing images of their lives in lockdown were Aniqa Khaqan and Wigdan Elagib, who have photographs displayed at Lister Park. The gallery also features photographs by Ladislav Demeter, Suad Abdallah Mahmoud, Nagat Mohamed Yasin Ahmed, Tsiyon Nega and Victor Alvarenga Funes.

Marie said: “It’s wonderful to see learners engaging in a project. Not only did we have an insight into Bradford’s lockdown world from a teenager’s view, we also had some stunning photographs.”

As well as being displayed in Through Our Lens, the work of the young people from Bradford College will be exhibited as part of a major exhibition of the work at Impressions Gallery, one of the foremost contemporary photography galleries in the UK, in July next year.

Silhouette of girl looking out of window
Photo by Abdi Warsame

A continuing collaboration

Carolyn will continue to work with Bradford College on developing the Through Our Lens project in the future. She said: “It has been a real privilege for me to be able to work with the young ESOL students from Bradford College. They have all produced such wonderful and thought provoking work.

“I know for some of them it has been a transformative experience, and my ambition is to continue to work with them, to develop their work and their ambitions. Marie Pacchiariani has also shown amazing commitment in ensuring this project could happen with the students during and after our very strict lockdown. I can’t wait to see what the future will bring.”

Photos by talented teenagers on a billboard as part of Through ur Lens, part of Our Street gallery. Photo by Emily Ryalls
Photos by talented teenagers on a billboard as part of Through Our Lens, part of Our Street gallery. Photo by Emily Ryalls

An exciting year for ESOL

There have been many opportunities to see and experience the creativity of ESOL students over the past six months. As well as working with the Royal Shakespeare Company to perform a scene from The Taming of the Shrew using tablets, the department worked with Bradford College Library to create #InspiredByESOL, an online gallery of artwork, writing and other works by the students during lockdown. Students have also written letters to young people at Jolaurabi School in Kenya, strengthening the connection the college has with the school. 

Photos from Through Our Lens feature on billboards throughout the district. Photo by Emily Ryalls.
Photos from Through Our Lens feature on billboards throughout the district. Photo by Emily Ryalls.

If you are aged 16-18, have moved to the UK from another country and would like to continue your education in Britain then ESOL 16-18 is the perfect course for you. You can find out more on our ESOL page.

 If you are aged 19 and over, then ESOL has part-time courses for you.

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